SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

Alarms sounded and employees quickly evacuated the Hotel Indigo in Santa Barbara today when a fire broke out on the roof.

The 41-room hotel at 121 State St. near the beach had white smoke billowing from the top of the two story structure about 11:30 a.m.

Bay Roadside restaurant manager Sheryl Glenwinkel said smoke was pouring down into the intersection near the train station as fire engines arrived.

Nearby, Paul Thone was stunned at how fast the smoke came up.  "And I looked up,  saw smoke in the street and saw the whole building (covered with smoke) and started hearing from the hotel, 'everyone evacuate'" he said.

Employees, police officers and firefighters  got to the rooms quickly, to make sure no one was inside or in trouble.

A hotel guest, Denise Camargo was down the street and quickly came back worried about her luggage and a train trip she had a ticket for a few minutes later. "Yes, I have to take the train to San Francisco," said Camargo who was visiting from Brazil.

Fire investigators say the older structure had newer upgrades and it helped with safety and controlling the problem

"This is an older building however when they put in the new occupancy of the restaurant and the hotel they upgraded the  fire alarm systems and that is what initially alerted everyone," said Santa Barbara City Fire Captain Mike DePonce. "I would like to say a great big kudos to the employees of the hotel they were able to get all the people remaining in the building safely out of the elements of the smoke."

The  hotel has an adjacent restaurant the Blue Tavern, and everyone there evacuated as well.

Firefighters found the problem on the roof where a heating and ventilation system was located along with the hood system for the stove.   They said a sprinkler in the hood also went off which created some of the steam that combined with the very visible smoke.


Fortunately the problem did not extend into  the hotel rooms.

Firefighters say employees are briefed on safety plans during routine inspections and that made a difference here.

"We'll ask them where the alarm panel is,  where the fire extinguishers are. We will ask them if they know the evacuation route, just kind of quiz them, to see if they are aware of their emergency operations," said DePonce.  

The restaurant will be closed about a day while repairs are made.

The hotel was cleared to stay open.